Gabe Lockman grew up admiring climbing from afar. But when he was 16, he decided to make his dad’s old hobby his own.
After finding some of his old climbing gear, he decided to join a gym in his hometown of Statesville, North Carolina. Immediately he realized that it was something he wanted to keep doing.
His passion for climbing has taken him across the Appalachian Mountains and climbing destinations throughout the south from Western North Carolina to Kentucky.
Four years into his journey with the sport, Lockman knows he wants to keep it as a part of his life.
Townes Ellum grew up in a musical household. There was always an old vinyl record spinning, a car radio bumping and instruments to play. His mother introduced him to the fiddle when he was just four years old, and his love for the instrument only grew.
He spent summer nights playing live music in Western North Carolina, and said seeing people dance to his performances at these events is when he truly realized the power playing music can have. He still busks around Asheville from time to time when he is back home in the mountains.
“There’s been times I’ve played for square dances,” he said. “And it’s kind of fun because people will be dancing and having fun and I’m one of the ones providing music for it. And it’s pretty cool just to see that what I’m doing is giving people a lot of joy and a lot of happiness.”
It comes as no surprise that he’s carried this passion into his college life. In his first semester on campus at UNC, during the fall of 2021, Ellum joined the university’s bluegrass band. He’s performed with them at the International Bluegrass Association’s music festival in downtown Raleigh and several times on campus.
Ellum said his connection with the bluegrass band has been key to his college experience so far.
“I have met a lot of the best friends that I’ve met in college through the bluegrass band,” he said. “I’ve gotten to know them well enough that it feels like a family.”
Though the fiddle is where he got his musical start, Ellum’s expertise goes far beyond the bluegrass violin.
He plays the guitar and sings for the band, and regularly tries to pick up new instruments and learn new styles of music in his day-to-day life. The walls in his room are lined with posters from his favorite musicians, from Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead to Mac Miller. He has a large collection of old records, many of which are country and bluegrass, at his house in Chapel Hill and at home in Asheville. At school and at home, he frequently searches through record stores looking for new finds to add to his collection.
Ellum was born in Connecticut but moved to Western North Carolina shortly after. He graduated from high school in 2020 and is a junior at UNC-CH.
Though he is not pursuing a degree in music at UNC, Ellum plans to keep music as an integral part of his life moving forward, as it has been key to his personal development up until this point.
Bluegrass music has a long history in North Carolina, one that extends from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the West to the Piedmont Region in the heart of the state.
Dozens of the genre’s key early and modern figures are from the Tar Heel state, but most notably Shelby, N.C. native Earl Scruggs. Scruggs pushed the genre forward by creating the three-finger style of banjo picking now used by nearly every artist in the scene.
Furthering North Carolina’s bluegrass ties, the International Bluegrass Music Association holds its annual festival in Raleigh every fall. Ellum performed with the Carolina Bluegrass Band at the IBMA Festival in 2021.
The music’s ties to the Appalachian region extend back to its earliest days, as it was developed in the mountains during the 1940’s as an evolution of old-time string music and Scottish-Irish traditional music, a heritage than many Appalachian natives can trace their roots back to.
Bluegrass bands are traditionally composed of musicians utilizing the banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, fiddle and vocals.
Ellum said bluegrass music is an instrumental part of North Carolina’s cultural history, and one that he wishes to help maintain for future generations.